When you see Emily Hamel and Corvett galloping down to the huge fences on the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill cross-country course this weekend, get your camera ready.
Known for his expressive jumping style, the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Corrido—Tina XII, Clearway) will clear every fence by about a foot, making for some impressive photos.
“When the jumps are small and he’s relaxed he doesn’t try that hard,” said Hamel. “He’s basically always had that jumping style. We’ve just learned to go with it. That’s how he likes to jump, and it’s working. The more I can stay out of his way and focus on being centered and keeping my position and just let him do his thing the better.”
Hamel and “Barry” completed the CCI4*-L at Fair Hill in 2018 and are looking for another good run to get their last qualification for the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L next spring.
“Sometimes it’s scary to say that and put that out in the world!” said Hamel with a laugh. “But to be honest, that’s our biggest goal. If we end up in the ribbons that’s just icing on the cake.”
Hamel grew up in Wisconsin on a small farm and learned to care for her own horses and teach lessons before she left for school at the University of Wisconsin. She started out majoring in equine science and did an internship with Courtney Cooper to learns the ins and outs of the sales business.
“I learned a lot about sales horses and what to look for and how to move horses and how to find a good match,” she said. “She gave me a good foundation in eventing. I had evented to training level before I went to her barn, but she was able to help me move up to prelim, then I was able to go from there.”
After switching her degree to business management and graduating, Hamel ended up in Lexington, Kentucky, at Windy Knoll Farm where she taught beginner lessons and worked with riders who wanted to get started in eventing.
“I enjoy teaching riders of all levels, and it was good to be able to teach a lot and get a good understanding for how people learn and how to frame your lessons,” she said. “When I moved there and started teaching I had a lot of young kids, which was nice because they kept riding with me, and we were able to get them into eventing and move them up the levels. I made a lot of good friends and relationships and clients there.”
Hamel also spent a few years coaching the University of Kentucky dressage team, all while bringing along a few sales horses and two upper-level competition horses, Katherine O’Brien’s Ramsey and her own Jupiter Breeze.
She began working with Phillip Dutton as she moved up to advanced with Ramsey. She lost Jupiter Breeze to colic when he was going intermediate.
“[Ramsey] was a really good cross-country horse, and he was a Thoroughbred,” she said. “He really taught me how to be a bit brave and gallop to big, solid things. I was able to go to so many cool competitions with him and start to get a feel for the level and know what it’s like to have owners supporting you. It was a good learning process in that way too.”
Hamel came close to getting to Kentucky with Ramsey, but he got cast in his stall a few days before Fair Hill and injured his leg. He went to O’Brien’s farm to recover and was retired from the upper levels just as Hamel was bringing along Barry.
From her connection with Dutton, Hamel was offered a job at his True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pennsylvania, four years ago. She’d been there about a year when Barry came into the barn to be sold after having gone novice in England (equivalent to preliminary in the United States). He was a bit too much to handle for his young rider who was competing him at training level in the U.S., and with his jumping style, he seemed like he might make a better show jumper since he was so careful, so he was sent to a jumper barn in Florida to be sold.
When no one seemed to click with him, he came back to Dutton’s barn, and Hamel began riding him.
“I was riding him, and I was probably a couple of days into the process and told Phillip, ‘I really like this horse. What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? Is it something I can afford?’ ” said Hamel. Dutton talked to his owners and was able to work out a good deal for Hamel to buy him.
“He is quirky, but I kind of like that in a horse,” she said. “He’s just so talented. I’ve definitely had to take my time with him and figure him out, but I enjoy that process.
“He’s pretty particular,” she added. “He’s definitely a mama’s boy. He doesn’t really like to be caught in the field by anyone except me, which can be very annoying to the other girls in the barn. He’s getting better. He’s really sweet, and he’s pretty funny. He’s very appreciative of being groomed. He’ll let you know when he likes something.”
This spring, Hamel tore a disc in her back and had to sit out a few competitions, so Dutton took the reins on Barry.
“He’s like, ‘Well, he’s real brave, but he could tone down the jump!’ I was like, ‘I don’t think we’re going to make that happen!’ But he’s a brave horse; he’s a careful horse and wants to do the job, so I guess that’s all you can really ask for,” she said. “If he has a funny jumping style, well, it’s what it is!”
For the last 2 ½ years, Hamel’s been working as Dutton’s head rider. She teaches a few of her own clients and relishes the opportunity to ride Dutton’s top horses. She also keeps busy with her podcast, The Whole Equestrian, which she started earlier this year with Tyler Held, who’s Jennie Brannigan’s groom.
“It sounds kind of dorky, but I had wanted to do this goal-setting night [on Jan. 1] with the girls at the barn,” she said. “I organized it, and we all sat down and talked about what we wanted to do in 2019 and try to see how we can help each other do that. That was the starting point, and then Tyler and I got really inspired. We were brainstorming ways we could help others, and we came up with the podcast idea.
“We saw this space that needed to be filled,” she continued. “We’re trying to have discussions on our show about wellness and horses, and we talk about things like mindset, fitness, nutrition and community. We’re basically trying to bridge the gap between riding and wellness. For me, it goes along with my passion for teaching and trying to share knowledge to help people become their best self.”
Hamel, 33, is looking forward to improving her dressage score at Fair Hill this weekend after working with James Burtwell this year and wants a clean and fast cross-country round in hopes of getting that crucial qualifying score.